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Watch now: New Illinois law will allow women to get birth control directly from pharmacists

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CHICAGO — Women in Illinois will soon be able to get hormonal birth control directly from pharmacists, without first visiting doctors, under a bill signed into law Thursday by Gov. J.B. Pritzker.

The bill will allow pharmacists to dispense hormonal birth control, including pills, patches and vaginal rings, starting in January 2022.

Pharmacists will have to ask patients to first fill out medical screening forms. They may then give out up to 12 months of birth control. The birth control should still be covered by health insurance, under the law.

In passing the law, Illinois joins 16 other states and Washington, D.C., in allowing women to get birth control directly from pharmacists, according to the office of bill sponsor Sen. Melinda Bush, D-Grayslake.

Supporters of the bill praised it as key to expanding access to birth control throughout the state, during a news conference Thursday.

“Birth control is a basic health care service,” Bush said. “It should be treated as such and readily available for all.”

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Pritzker noted that now, women who want birth control can face barriers such as finding a doctor, scheduling an appointment, paying for that appointment, finding child care during the appointment and transportation to it.

“More Illinoisans will have more control over the most personal decisions of their lives,” Pritzker said. “Right now in Illinois and most states, a woman looking to access birth control has to navigate a maze of requirements.”

Proponents also said it will allow pharmacists to more fully utilize their skills and training. To be allowed to dispense birth control without an individual doctor’s prescription, pharmacists will have to complete a training program related to the practice. Pharmacists will also have to provide counseling to patients and educate them about contraception.

Some opponents of the bill say they’re worried about the lack of physician care for patients, especially young women. The new law does not have any minimum age at which a patient can get birth control from a pharmacist.

“The primary concern we have with this is this would allow minors to go to a pharmacist to get birth control,” said Ralph Rivera, legislative director of the Illinois Pro-Family Alliance. He said the alliance worries that minors won’t get the medical follow-up they should.

Under the new law, pharmacists may use their “professional and clinical” judgment to determine when a patient should be referred to a doctor or other health care provider.

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